QPR came from behind to seal a dramatic 3-2 victory over Preston North End at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium on Saturday afternoon, ensuring the R’s head into the international break full of momentum after securing back-to-back Sky Bet Championship victories.
Lyndon Dykes gave Rangers the lead in the 17th minute but strikes from Emil Riis and Joshua Earl pegged the hosts back, but efforts from Jimmy Dunne and Ilias Chair wrapped up a memorable comeback in W12.
Heading into this one, R’s boss Warburton made two changes from the side which overcame Birmingham City on Tuesday night, with captain Stefan Johansen and Andre Gray replacing Andre Dozzell and Charlie Austin respectively, with both taking a place on the substitutes bench.
This meant Rangers lined up with Seny Dieng in goal, behind a defensive line of Moses Odubajo, Rob Dickie, Yoann Barbet and Dunne, whilst Chris Willock, Dominic Ball, the returning Johansen and Chair occupied the midfield positions, with Dykes and Gray leading the line for the Super Hoops.
As we approached this one the R’s were looking to build on their mid-week victory over Birmingham City, which saw Chair’s double wrapping up the points in W12.
Whilst in contrast, opponents Preston were also looking to build on their recent run of form, with a string of positive results seeing them head to west London on the back of nine games without defeat.
In terms of the match, for the second game in a row, conditions in W12 were somewhat difficult with the rain once again lashing down. This ensured for a slow start to the final clash before the international break as both sides adjusted to the slippery conditions.
But it was Warburton’s side who were first to hold onto the ball for a prolonged period. Some fine passing between Willock, Chair and Johansen eventually carving out for the first opportunity of the half, only for Dickie’s cross to fire comfortably over Daniel Iversen’s goal.
The R’s continued to turn the screw early on, with Chair who was flowing with confidence following his mid-week brace seeing his effort blocked, before Odubajo won the first corner kick of the afternoon, which eventually came to nothing.
And it was Rangers who took an early lead.
A fine counter attacking move which began from goalkeeper Dieng, was able to find Chair with a quick throw out, who in turn was able to drive at the Preston defence, before finding Gray.
The 30-year-old with a first time cross was then able to pick out his strike partner Dykes, who at the second time of asking was able to poke to ball home for his fourth strike of the campaign, igniting a wet Kiyan Prince Foundation stadium.
After going ahead, Rangers went in search of second.
Some good skill from Willock saw him cleverly beat his man, before firing straight at Danish keeper Iversen. The rebound fell kindly back to the former Arsenal youngster who was able to hook the ball into a dangerous area, only for it to be cleared.
But, in the 27th minute with seemingly their first chance of the afternoon, Riis was able to capitalise on some confusion between pair Dunne and Dieng before calmly slotting home, making it all square.
Despite being pegged back, Warburton’s side looked for an instant reply, with centre-half Dickie who has been at the forefront of Rangers’ attacks this season feeding Willock, but the 23-year-old could only fire at the keeper.
With the half-time whilst looming both sides looked to take the lead, initially, Lilywhites man Daniel Johnson saw his well worked set-piece drift wide, before Gray headed past the post, only for the offside flag to go up.
However, as the half time whistle was blown it remained all square.
Only seconds after the restart, Frankie McAvoy’s side were able to take the lead. A neat, lofted ball found Sean Maguire who was able to pul the ball back for Josh Earl who with the easiest of finishes tapped the ball home – giving the R’s a mountain to climb.
After going behind Warburton’s side look for an instant response, with midfielder Ball going close.
A sweet strike from the 26-year-old looked destined for the net, but at the last moment his strike was palmed away by Iversen.
Rangers continued their hunt for an equaliser, a fine move once again saw Dickie bringing the ball out from the back, finding Johansen, who eventually set up the R’s centre half, but the ball spun away from him at the vital moment and the chance had gone.
Despite the W12’s faithful’s urge to search for an equaliser, it was Preston who looked likely to further extend their lead, with Johnson going close once again.
But the 69th minute kicked the R’s into gear.
Dykes initially had the ball in the net after latching on from another fine Dickie cross but the celebrations were quickly cut short as the offsides flag was up, but the moment had rejuvenated the R’s.
Boss Warburton quickly made a double change with Luke Amos and Charlie Austin replacing Johansen and Gray respectively and in turn injecting some much-needed energy into the Super Hoops.
And those changes quickly paid dividends when in the 71st minute Rangers found themselves level!
Chair whipped in a delightful set-piece which courtesy of a fortuitous bounce fell to Irish defender Dunne, who at full stretch was able to poke the ball home.
After the equaliser the Super Hoops were on top.
Willock quickly forcing Iversen into a save before Moroccan international Chair was able to send W12 into a state of frenzy!
A wonderful touch from Dykes saw him doing wonderfully well to find Austin with a clever header and the experienced striker picked out the 23-year-old who with one touch, cleverly curled the ball round Iversen, restoring Rangers’ lead.
Suddenly, the game had flipped on its head, and it was Warburton’s who were keen to wind down the clock.
Warburton added Jordy de Wijs to the mix with ten minutes left on the clock to add some more defensive steel to the R’s backline.
Rangers knew they had to dig in deep and two crunching tackles from Barbet certainly set the tone.
Johnson went close in the final seconds of the 90 for the visitors, but Dickie was on hand to throw himself in front of the goal bound effort.
Groans then rang round the famous old ground when referee Jeremy Simpson signalled an additional four minutes.
But, it was Rangers who looked most likely to score when Odubajo was presented with a perfect opportunity to seal it once and for all, the full-back breaking down the right before finding Chair but his touch saw the Preston defenders sprinting back and his effort was deflected away for a corner.
Warburton’s side did well ran down the clock and as the full-time whistle blew a huge cheer of relief greeted Warburton’s side.
This victory ensures the Super Hoops head into the international break on full of momentum and return to action on Saturday 16th against local rivals Fulham at Craven Cottage.